jesus-1250023_1280Who is Jesus? Jesus Christ is at the center of the Christian religion (as the name Christ-ian makes clear). Most scholars, be they Christian or atheist, accept that Jesus, the subject of the New Testament gospels, actually existed. The Bible itself contains numerous sources, including four gospels and the letters from Paul, Peter, James & Jude (both Jesus’s brothers), and the biblical book of Hebrews whose author is unknown. It is key to remember that the Bible is not one book from one human author (or a group in direct collaboration with each other), but a collection of books from different authors and different times all commonly held to be divinely inspired by the one Holy Spirit.

Even if you disregard the Bible, Jesus is referenced so many times by so many different people—even those that were opposed to Him—that the evidence becomes hard to ignore. Tacitus, a Roman historian, chronicled Jesus’s death at the hand of Pontius Pilate and the spread of the Christian movement. Same for Suetonius, another Roman historian who called the Christians ‘a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief’. And Josephus also wrote a lot about Jesus as well, despite being a Jew! All of these people lived within 100 years of the Christian events they wrote about. Then, there are accounts from the Talmud, a written history of Jewish tradition. The Jewish order of the day was very much against Jesus, and the elders had an instrumental role in putting Him to death. They would have arguably had more reason NOT to say anything about a so-called ‘dangerous heretic’ than to talk about Him, but that’s exactly what they did!

Slightly more than 2,000 years ago, Jesus came into the world. His mother was Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph but not married at this time. Mary was confronted by an angel who said that Mary would give birth to a son, to be named Jesus, who would save his people from their sins. This was a virgin birth, a miracle from God. When Jesus was about 30, He was baptized and began an illustrious three years of traveling, teaching, and performing miracles. The teachings were as bold as the miracles He performed—He called Himself the very son of God, and people who believed the He came from God would be saved. He revealed the essence behind God’s laws—for example, the commandment to not murder carried with it a deeper commandment to not hate one another and thus harbor the same feelings inside one’s heart that would lead to murder. Many followed Jesus during his ministry, including twelve men Jesus considered His disciples. The crowds who listened to Jesus were amazed because Jesus taught ‘as one who had authority, and not as their scribes’ (Matthew 7:29).

Eventually, the Jewish leaders decided they had to take action, because Jesus was upsetting the legalistic religion they worked so hard to preserve. With the help of Judas, a disciple who betrayed Jesus (as Jesus foretold), the Roman soldiers and Jewish elders captured Jesus, who willingly consented because He knew what the ultimate result would be. Jesus was condemned to death, even though all the testimonies against Him were false. Jesus was crucified, and was buried in a tomb heavily guarded by a giant stone and a group of Roman soldiers stationed to guard against Jesus’s prediction that He would be resurrected in three days’ time. This indeed came to pass—the stone was rolled back, the guards ‘trembled and became like dead men’ (Matthew 28:4), and over the next month or two, Jesus appeared with a resurrected body to hundreds of people before ascending into heaven to be at the right hand of God.

So, you can see that Jesus was clearly of some religious importance, but why name a religion for Him? As noted above, Jesus proclaimed the glory of God, and that He was the only way to heaven. In fact, he said he WAS God (John 10:30)! Such a bold claim could only be legitimately made by Him because of his many miracles and teachings. Jesus was God, who came to live as a man so that the world might know Him. Throughout His life, Jesus was perfectly sinless (part of the nature of God), which was why only He could become a lasting sacrifice for our sins. In the Old Testament, the Israelites used animals with certain standards of purity to atone for their sins. These sacrifices were only temporary and used for specific sins, but Jesus was one sacrifice, for everyone, forever (Hebrews 10:12). He also fulfilled the cleanliness laws of the OT. If we believe in Jesus, we may share in the forgiveness of sins, the guarantee of salvation, and a right relationship with God.

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Further resources:

The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ (particularly the chapters in Part 2) by Gary Habermas
“Who is Jesus Christ?” by GotQuestions